Last Names & Surnames

Last Name Origins (2023)

Do you know where your last name comes from? It might be a common name, but there’s likely a story behind it. This blog post will explore the origins of common last names. We will talk about how they came to be and how they have changed over time. So whether you’re curious about your family history or want to know more about the origins of last names, read on!

History of Last Names

The history of last names is a long and complicated one. Last names were only sometimes used the way they are today. The use of last names is a relatively new wonder. The first last name was probably created around 1000 years ago in China.

The use of last names started to spread to other parts of the world after the 1066 Norman Conquest of England. The Normans introduced last names into England, but the practice became common much later. By the 14th century, most English people had acquired the last name.

Scotland started using last names in the 16th century. Ireland was even slower, adopting surnames in the 17th century. In some parts of Europe, including Germany, last names were adopted in the 19th century. Today, there are millions of different last names in use all over the world. Many of these surnames have interesting histories and origins.

Lowest Countries by the last name

A few countries have the lowest last name density in the world. These countries include:

  1. Monaco
  2. Vatican City
  3. San Marino
  4. Liechtenstein
  5. Andorra
  6. Mauritius
  7. Iceland
  8. Bahamas
  9. Barbados

Where Does Your Last Name Come From?

Where Does Your Last Name Come From

The origin of last names is a fascinating topic that can be traced back hundreds of years. There are many different ways that last names came about. Still, the most common explanation is that they were originally derived from the given name of the person’s father or another forebearIn some cultures, last names also indicate the profession of the person or their place of origin. Over time, last names have evolved and changed to reflect the times and places in which they were used. Today, there are many different last name origins, each with its unique meaning and history.

The Origin of Your Last Name

Your last name says a lot about you. It can be a reflection of your family history, your nationality, or even a sign of prestige. But have you ever wondered how your last name came to be? Most last names in the Western world are derived from one of four sources: patronymic and matronymic surnames, occupational surnames, geographical surnames, or status surnames.

  • Patronymic surnames are those derived from the father’s given name. It was the traditional way of passing on a surname in many cultures. The meaning of the name would often be something like “son of John” or “daughter of Mary.” For example, Anderson is a patronymic surname meaning “son of Anders/Andrew.” In Iceland, almost all last names are patronymic.
  • Matronymic surnames are less common, but they do exist. These are surnames derived from the mother’s given name. The meaning of these names is typically something like “mother of John” or “daughter of Sarah.” These surnames were very common in medieval Europe and are still quite common in Scandinavia. 
  • Occupational surnames are based on the person’s occupation. It was often one of the few ways someone without nobility could distinguish themselves. It was often how people in medieval times were identified, as they didn’t have personal last names yet. Smith is the most common occupational surname in English-speaking countries, but there are many others, such as Baker, Potter, Thatcher, and Shepherd. Names like “Smith” or “Baker” were common occupational surnames. The meaning is self-explanatory; someone with the surname Smith was likely a blacksmith by trade, while someone with the surname Baker was probably a baker by profession.
  • Geographical surnames are based on where the person lived or was born. It could be the name of a city, town, village, or even a specific landmark. These kinds of surnames were especially common in Europe during the Middle Ages when many people needed an easy way to identify people from different areas. For example, someone with the surname Hill probably lived on or near a hill. The meaning behind these names is usually quite literal, such as “one who comes from London” or “one who lives by the river.”

10 Oldest last names and their origins and meanings

Many last names have been around for centuries and have interesting origins and meanings. Here are 10 of the oldest last names and their origins and meanings:

  1. Smith – This is one of the most common last names in the world and has a very simple origin. It comes from the occupation of blacksmithing.
  2. Johnson – This last name has English and Scottish roots and originally meant “son of John.”
  3. Williams – This popular Welsh last name means “son of William.”
  4. Brown – This is a common English last name that comes from the color brown.
  5. Jones – This Welsh last name comes from the given name John.
  6. Miller – This is an occupational last name that refers to someone who works in a mill.
  7. Davies – This popular Welsh last name means “son of David.”
  8. Wilson – This English last name means “son of William.” 
  9. Stewart – This Scottish last name originally meant “steward” or “guardian.” 
  10. Anderson – This Scottish and Scandinavian last name comes from the given name Andrew.

10 Least Likely Last Names and Their Meanings

Least Likely Last Names and Their Meanings

  1. Smyth: Originally an English occupational name for a man who worked with metal (Smith or blacksmith), it is the most unused last name in the United States.
  2. Gracia: A Spanish surname meaning “bear,” is now one of the unique surnames in America due to Hispanic immigration.
  3. Rodrigues: A Spanish surname meaning “son of Rodrigo,”
  4. Atonal: A patronymic name meaning “beautiful.” It is the second most uncommon last name in France
  5. Ahrens: A german surname meaning unknown. It is a variant form of the name Arnold.
  6. Bronze: Originally a descriptive nickname for someone with brown hair or skin, it is now one of the least-used last names in the United States.
  7. Panchak: Originally a Ukrainian surname meaning “of the festival,” it is now one of the most unusual last names in both the United States and England.
  8. Million: An occupational name for someone who worked in a mill, it is now one of the unusual last names in both the United States and England.
  9. Shockley: A dark surname meaning “evil spirit,” it is now one of the least last names in both the United States and England.
  10. Tuffin: It doesn’t have an exact meaning. Currently, it’s only used for less than 20000. 

Why is it Important to Know Your Last Name Origin?

It is important to know your last name origin for various reasons:

  1. It can help you connect with your family history. Knowing the origins of your last name can give you a better understanding of where your ancestors came from and how they ended up with the surname that you have today.
  2. Research into your last name’s origins can reveal interesting facts about the meaning of your name and its connection to other families or individuals with the same surname.
  3. Learning about the history behind your last name can be a fun and enlightening experience.


Have you ever wondered what your last name means? Why is it spelled the way it is, or where did your ancestors come from? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have questions about their last name origins. Although there are many last name origins, these are some of the most common. It’s interesting to see how diverse our last names can be and how they can tell us a lot about our family history. If you’re ever curious about your last name origins, make sure to do some research and find out more about where your family came from. So if you’ve ever wondered about your last name, read on!

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